I never guessed I’d be spending Halloween weekend in beautiful ruins on a tropical island, surrounded by the bluest blue of the Caribbean Sea – teaching Ayurveda to beautiful people at the ‘Elevate Yourself’ wellness retreat in beautiful Saint Lucia.

Retreat Ayurveda

My cherished friend, Melanie Sachs had been scheduled to teach. But life tosses all of us surprises, and they’re not all easy to take in stride. A few days before the retreat, Melanie received the sad news that her dear sister passed away, tragically and unexpectedly. Melanie and I share a similar vision of the value of Ayurveda for women, and we have a real spark of love between us.
She phoned me to ask, “Can you jump on a plane and go in my place?”
My heart was broken for her. But I knew the best way to help was to say, “Yes, of course. I’ll go.”

I flew to St. Lucia to join some phenomenal presenters – Gabrielle Bernstein (New York Times best-selling author of Spirit Junkie and May Cause Miracles), ‘Iron Chef’ Cat Cora, Iyengar-style hatha yoga master John Schumacher, for a wellness and self-discovery retreat, featuring meditation, yoga, cooking, exercise and of course – Ayurveda!

I presented Ayurveda basics and self-care techniques to women from a variety of countries and cultures – some native, some flown in from the US, England and other countries – most with no knowledge of Ayurveda. I always enjoy watching those faces light up and eyes sparkle when students “get it”… Love hearing those quiet chuckles of recognition when a few more women reconnect with their senses, and feel how easy Ayurveda can be… Love to resonate with a woman’s desire to be heard and share her pride when she stands up to share her own experiences…

The natural beauty of the island and her warm, wonderful people soothed my being. The salt sea, sun and good company of Saint Lucia’s tropical and cultural je ne sai quois so much like my beautiful second home in Kerala, India. I’m grateful to the St. Lucia Ministry of Tourism for hosting the event, and especially for making very last-minute arrangements to transport and and take such good care of me.

Between retreat sessions, I had the chance to hang out with Gabrielle (aka ‘Gabby B’). We got to know each other (Gaby regularly visited the same ashram I lived in when she was a little girl), and we chatted a little Ayurveda (she’s fascinated).

Niika Quistgard and Gabrielle 'Gabby B' Bernstein at Retreat, 2013

Niika Quistgard and Gabby Bernstein at Retreat

She told me, “Niika, you’re a great teacher. You can help a lot of people. You’ve got to tell your story to the world!”

I’ve been thinking about a writing project along these lines in answer to so many questions about my life and path from students and friends. I had to laugh at the universe’s subtlety, placing a famous person directly in my path to deliver the confirming message in a way I couldn’t miss! I can take a hint! I’ve already penciled “writing time” across many pages in next year’s calendar…

Life is filled with surprising losses and blessings, isn’t it? Often, although it seems logically impossible, these pairs of opposites co-exist. During the entire trip, my heart hung heavy for Melanie’s loss all weekend. But at the same time, every moment of this trip was a powerful gift for me, and I’m so grateful Melanie asked me to take her place.

Whatever it is we’re facing at any given time, it’s possible to find a thread of Grace running through. when we can find that Grace, we allow almost any experience to be digested into food for the soul.


P.S. Discover one lovely way to nourish your nervous system, Melanie Sachs-style, here.

Special thanks to Daniel Marcion of Belle Portwe for the photography.

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